New industrial airport Brazil’s hope for boosting trade

. Jun 05, 2020
New industrial airport Brazil's hope for boosting trade Belo Horizonte International Airport. Photo: BH Airport

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We’re covering the inauguration of Brazil’s first industrial airport. The Covid-19 calamity in Brazil. And the possibility of a violent weekend ahead.

Brazil inaugurates its first industrial airport

Trying to encourage investments and added-value industries, the Belo Horizonte International Airport has inaugurated its industrial airport — Brazil’s first.

It is essentially a foreign-trade zone (with lower, simplified tax regimes), and has a 750,000-square-meter space that can house up to 250 companies of different sizes and fields, allowing them to manufacture their products on the airport&#8217;s premises. At least in the short-term future, the airport&#8217;s administration intends to attract auto part producers and pharmaceutical companies.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> By operating in partnership with revenue services, this new trade hub will simplify tax procedures. That is no small feat: companies in Brazil lose an average of 2,000 hours just trying to comply with tax laws&nbsp;— more than in any other country in the world.</p> <ul><li>According to a document published by the Federal Comptroller&#8217;s Office, the government expects this new free zone to boost trade of Brazilian added-value products, making them more competitive on a global scale.</li><li>It also could help Belo Horizonte Airport cope with a massive loss of revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as 92 percent of passenger planes in Brazil have been grounded.</li></ul> <p><strong>Exporting hub.</strong> Belo Horizonte was chosen to host Brazil&#8217;s first industrial airport due to its strategic location. The city has a daily flight route to the port of Santos — Brazil&#8217;s busiest — and is connected to major roadway and railway axes.</p> <p><strong>First tenant.</strong> Clamper, a producer of surge protection devices for electronic equipment, will be the first to operate at the industrial airport —&nbsp;expected to begin activities in July.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>By the time you read this, Covid-19 will have claimed another Brazilian life</h2> <p>On Thursday, Brazil once again reached the mark of one <a href="">Covid-19</a> death per minute, with 1,473 new casualties accounted for. The total tally has now topped 34,000 — making Brazil the country with the third-highest number of coronavirus death in the world. Meanwhile, almost 615,000 people have been infected.</p> <ul><li>The real figures could be much higher, as Brazil has one of the lowest rates of tests per 1 million people in the world at just 4,643. Among the top 10 worst-hit countries, only India has a lower test rate, though the South Asian country has a population 6.5 times larger than Brazil&#8217;s.</li></ul> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2641192" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> The crisis is reaching its worst point so far, precisely when Brazil&#8217;s states have begun reopening their economies.</p> <ul><li>Brazil will no longer be able to impose full-scale lockdowns, proven to be the most effective way of containing the spread. Police forces do not have enough men to enforce restrictions without a massive public buy-in. But the looming economic crisis and confusing political messages have lowered popular support for even standard isolation measures.</li></ul> <p><strong>Fingers crossed. </strong>At this point, Brazil is depending on scientific breakthroughs to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the country.</p> <p><strong>Transparency. </strong>As the number of coronavirus infections and deaths rises to new heights, the government seems to have found a new strategy to mitigate bad PR from its woeful Covid-19 response: it has begun publishing <a href="">updated figures</a> late at night, <em>after</em> the evening news. </p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Is a weekend of street confrontations in store?</h2> <p>Last weekend gave us a taste of how explosive Brazilian streets could become in the near future, as multiple crises pile up — with a looming recession and an expected &#8216;job apocalypse&#8217; on top of the pandemic. Both <a href="">pro-Bolsonaro and anti-fascist movements</a> are scheduled to march on Sunday, and there are multiple things to be looking out for, namely:</p> <ul><li>Leftist groups fear that supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro will incite confrontations, or at least infiltrate their movements to begin looting sprees. And that could spark a violent reaction from the police. Law enforcement in Brazil has been historically violent towards left-leaning social movements, but in 2020 there is an additional component: the enhanced politicization of officers — most of whom are <a href="">staunch supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro</a>;</li><li>How will the president react? Over the week, he and his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, called anti-fascist groups &#8220;terrorists&#8221; and &#8220;criminals.&#8221;</li></ul> <p><strong>Why it matters.</strong> How this weekend will play out should set the tone for the political crisis of the coming weeks and, potentially, months.</p> <p><strong>Pump the brakes.</strong> Over the past few days, several cross-partisan initiatives have been created to oppose Mr. Bolsonaro. But these groups are not endorsing Sunday&#8217;s anti-fascist rallies, fearing the government could use them in order to take its radical rhetoric into action. Its leaders also believe that protests amid a pandemic are a health risk.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>What else you need to know today</h2> <ul><li><strong>Emergency salary.</strong> President Jair Bolsonaro said during a Facebook live broadcast on Thursday that the government will extend the emergency salary for informal workers and vulnerable populations for two extra months. However, the monthly payment will be cut in half, from BRL 600 (USD 117) to BRL 300.</li><li><strong>Free trade.</strong> The Dutch parliament has passed a motion against the European Union&#8217;s free trade agreement with Mercosur, claiming Brazilian agribusiness does not respect the environment. The trade deal can only be implemented if all EU member states ratify it, but European countries with strong agricultural lobbies have fiercely opposed the agreement. </li><li><strong>Sinophobia.</strong> Education Minister Abraham Weintraub was subpoenaed by the Federal Police in a racism probe initiated after he posted anti-Chinese sentiment on Twitter. He refused to answer investigators&#8217; questions, handing them a written statement instead, in which he invoked his right to free speech (which in Brazil does not allow for racist remarks) and once again bashed China&#8217;s Communist Party, which &#8220;despises the principles of liberal democracies.&#8221;</li><li><strong>Aviation.</strong> In a move that could set a benchmark for the industry, Gol Airlines, Brazil&#8217;s biggest domestic carrier, has initiated a voluntary redundancy program to reduce labor costs. Staff members will be forced to choose between unpaid leave, part-time contracts, retirement, or resignation in exchange for some financial compensation. Those who do not join the program will be placed in a compulsory wage and hours reduction program.</li><li><strong>Protection.</strong> The Senate passed a bill making the use of facemasks mandatory in public spaces — including all commercial establishments, churches, and public transport. The rule should be enforced until the pandemic is over — and poor people may access free masks distributed at health units.

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